by: Mario Matijasic [ ]
After all the stellar feedback received for the first TankArt volume, Michael Rinaldi definitely did not want to lose the momentum. The new TankArt volume appeared very quickly, continuing Mike's concept of modeling book series in which he could "share, teach and inspire".
The idea behind Mike's concept of TankArt modeling book series is original: each TankArt volume is dedicated to only couple of painting and weathering techniques. These are covered in great detail and accompanied by large high-quality step-by-step photos of several different modeling projects. Although a very different approach than we used to expect from modeling how-to books, Mike's concept proved to be a winner: the TankArt volumes are selling like hotcakes.
TankArt Vol.2 is dedicated to painting and weathering WWII Allied armor. I know this will sound blasphemous to some, but I have to admit I always thought Allied vehicles were extremely dull subjects for modeling. Not only because Allied armor lacks that "cool factor" German cats have in abundance, but also because I found olive drab paint schemes outright boring... Still, I wanted to give Mike a chance to change my mind.
The book arrived perfectly packed in a hard cardboard box, additionally secured inside a bubble-wrap. Here are the basic facts:
Title: TANKART Vol.2 WWII Allied Armor
Publisher: Rinaldi Studio Press, LLC
Format: paperbound (22x24 cm)
Color: full color
Retail Price: $29.95
Browsing the book I found the TankArt Vol.2 looks amazing, following the structure and extremely professional presentation of the first TankArt volume. Mike's background in design definitely shows to full extent in these publications with an exceptionally attractive layout of the pages. It's not just about large images the pages are packed with, but also well laid out text, image captions and eye-catching orange text boxes. The general chapter organization of the TankArt Vol.2 matches that of the first TankArt volume:
Weathering principle & techniques:
In the introductory chapters of this book, Mike presents his weathering philosophy and the desire to share his modeling experiences with the public. The focus of every modeling project should be telling the story of a particular vehicle, and weathering techniques are of utmost importance in conveying that story to the audience. The fundamental cornerstone of Mike's weathering principle is "layering": Mike layers all of his techniques, one on top of the other, and repeat them as often as he feels necessary to achieve the final result.
After a short chapter describing products and materials the author uses in this book, four chapters on weathering techniques follow. Two of these techniques were described in detail in TankArt Vol.1 (hairspray technique and oil paint rendering) but Mike explains them in this volume as well. Why the duplication? If you missed the first TankArt volume, you would be lacking basic information on these extremely versatile weathering techniques.
Hairspray technique is the first weathering technique presented in this book. Mike uses this technique in almost all his models to create layers of chips and scratches from the nearly impossible to see, all the way to heavily distressed whitewash of completely rusted out finishes. The chapter describes the hairspray technique in detail, from the type of hairspray Mike uses, its optimal application, types and dilution of paint that will be chipped, paint application, and tools for making chips and scratches. The images support the text well, showing the painting stages and presenting numerous examples of the technique in use.
The second technique described is oil paint rendering, Mike's own invention and one of the defining processes of how he produces his models. After a short presentation on oil paint rendering origins, the technique is again explained in detail with large photos accompanying the text. Throughout this chapter Mike shares number of tips for successful oil application and blending, as well as his thoughts on the extremely versatile and powerful technique.
Next technique is something this volume could not go without; painting Olive Drab. The focus of this chapter is replication of OD color in scale and creating as much visual interest to the color as possible. Mike shares his two-step painting process and subsequent lacquer thinner removal procedure which in turn give depth and recreate worn paint aspect on this extremely durable paint. Again, high-quality photos show different painting steps and weathering stages, and illustrate author's thoughts perfectly. This chapter is for me the best example of Mike's effort for creating realistic, but at the same time artistic finish.
The last technique presented in this book is something I was eagerly waiting for ever since Mike announced all the topics of this volume. Pigment application is a technique Mike briefly touched in the first TankArt volume, but in this book he dedicated the whole chapter to talk about pigments, give tips on their application and several different ways to fix them to the model. The photos support the text perfectly, specifying each stage of pigment application well. In Mike's hands the pigments definitely are the ultimate product for realistic representation of dust, dirt and dried mud.
The essence of each TankArt volume are the model projects, in which the author goes deep to show the techniques in action. As the TankArt Vol.1 title suggests the projects are all WWII Allied armor models, but each unique regarding weathering concepts and finish.
The first model presented is Infantry Tank MkIV (A22) Churchill MkIII in Russian service. This Kursk combat veteran receives a myriad of painting and weathering techniques: color modulation, two rounds of white winterwash, pinwashes, filters, mapping, several rounds of pigments and oil paint rendering. All these layered techniques produce one of the most impressive models I have ever seen. The next chapter describes US Army M26 Pershing, a benchmark example for painting Olive Drab. Mike shares number of tips on how to make OD look more interesting, but realistic in the same time. The extra challenge for Mike's techniques is also the scale of this model... unlike the other model examples in this volume, this one is in 1/48 scale! Mike then shows his magic on Char B1-bis, painting hard-edge camouflage patterns and exploiting the peculiar tank design for some of the more extreme weathering elements. Of particular importance for me was the section on weathering composition, integration and delicate balance of artistic effects and realism in scale. The following chapter deals with M4A4 Sherman Firefly Vc, heavily laden with stowage and supplies, and sporting spare tracks armor. Although a single camo colored tank, this vehicle receives one of the most intense paintjobs Mike ever attempted. An important part of this chapter is author's interpretation of color modulation technique and also working with pigments. The final model presented is KV-Is Ekhranami, a simple OOB build portrayed as a relatively new tank in service, one that had seen some use, but was not beaten up so bad. The project combines the paint wear effects and the pigments to create the best relationship between the Russian Green and the earth effects. This chapter provides a great counterpoint to the Churchill and the Firefly projects, which were much more involving, and illustrates that achieving good finishing effects is not dependent on model complexity.
As with TankArt Vol.1, each of the model chapters is about 30 pages long... quite a read. Although Mike goes to great lengths explaining the process of making these models come to life, reading these chapters is definitely not a boring experience. Paint callouts are included for each project as well as a quick reference SBS images shown in sequence at the end of each chapter.
The final chapter of the book deals with figure modeling, and it is written by Radek Pituch. Radek displays his award-winning vignette and briefly explains the process of sculpting figures. Although the chapter is very short and, honestly, I'm not sure how many vehicle modelers would ever attempt something like sculpting their own figures, I still feel this section is a welcomed addition to the TankArt series. The only gripe I have with the chapter is that the figure captions of the sculpting process do not follow the pictures in a synchronized manner.
All the high points of the TankArt series I presented in a review of the first volume apply to this volume as well.
- The images featured in this book are large and display perfectly each step in the weathering process. I'm glad Mike decided not to make any compromises regarding the size of photos, as they are of extreme importance in this kind of a how-to book. Some images are overlaid with white circles which help in guiding the eye to the section of the vehicle of particular interest. These areas of interest are usually fully described in text captions.
- The images are very clear in illustrating distinctive steps of the weathering process and most of them show the materials Mike used in the procedure. However, as with the first TankArt volume, I feel the strongest point of this book is definitely the plethora of information included in the text. The techniques are described in simple language, yet in great detail, also explaining the reasoning behind each step of the process. The text connects to the images really well.
- A particularly nice touch are the orange text boxes. The author separates them from the rest of the text and uses these to share his thoughts with the reader, explaining his intentions and covering the "why" as well as the "how-to". The text is inviting and, although a big name on the modeling scene, Mike manages to create a feeling he's chatting with the reader.
- There is no bias toward any product brand throughout this book. Mike works with various different products and shares his experiences regarding the strong-points of each one.
- Layflat binding. This is something I missed when reviewing TankArt Vol.1, but now that I gave the binding a try I definitely have to compliment this feature of the book as well. The binding uses a special reinforced polyurethane resin which is extremely durable and can be pressed down flat without damaging the book. This way the book stays open and can be used directly on the modeling bench!
- Finally, the concept of TankArt modeling book series is new and refreshing. The enormously large body of work on painting and finishing techniques Mike created was simply impossible to put in a single book in detail the author intended. Instead, each TankArt volume is dedicated to several techniques which are covered in great depth. Also, each volume presents different modeling projects featuring these techniques in elaborate step-by-step format. Thus, each individual TankArt book can not be compared to Mig's FAQ or a similar "modeling bible" regarding the content size (and, as you can see, that was not Mike’s idea in the first place). However, the content of the complete TankArt series is definitely going to surpass any modeling book released so far by miles.
- Some might find the inclusion of two weathering techniques which were explained in previous TankArt volume as unnecessary repetition. Hairspray technique and oil paint rendering are the foundation of most of Mike's models and all those who did not get the first volume would be missing basic information on these extremely versatile weathering techniques. I have to admit I didn't know how I would like the repetition, but after reading about hairspray technique and oil paint rendering again (of course, this TankArt volume includes new text and is illustrated with step-by-step photos of Allied armor model projects) I actually found new tips and tricks to utilize these techniques to the maximum. After all, repetition is the best way to learn new things. So, the inclusion of two "old" chapters is definitely not a low point of the book for me.
- The first TankArt volume had quite a number of typographical errors. Although Mike managed to find most of the typos in this volume, some are still there. An improvement, but still not perfect. I understand this might be nitpicking, but I think the book of this quality should be proofread several times before publishing.
TankArt books are incredibly inspirational read. I never thought I would enjoy reading about modeling Allied WWII armor, which was probably my least favorite modeling topic. Also, this book even made me realize that Olive Drab is not such a boring color after all. In fact, it is a great basis for getting the best out of all the finishing techniques presented here.
This is only the second TankArt volume published so far, but it is evident these books are among the finest modeling books on the market today. I'm definitely looking forward to getting the next volume and finally the entire TankArt series. With an attractive layout, detailed descriptions of modeling techniques, superb step-by-step photos, and most importantly Mike’s engaging writing style, the complete TankArt series is definitely going to be the pinnacle of my modeling library.